Unemployability or TDIU:
Understanding Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability
Introduction: In certain cases, veterans with less than a 100% scheduler rating may be unable to work due to their service-connected conditions. To address this, the law provides an avenue for veterans to claim benefits at the 100% level even without a full scheduler rating. This benefit is known as "total disability based on individual unemployability" (TDIU), or simply "individual unemployability" (IU). In this blog, we will delve into the significance of TDIU and explain the requirements and considerations involved in making this claim.
TDIU benefits veterans who cannot engage in "substantially gainful employment" due to their service-connected conditions. Substantially gainful employment refers to holding a job that pays at least the annual poverty level set by the federal government. To qualify for TDIU benefits, the following requirements must be met:
Single Condition Rating: If the veteran has only one service-connected condition, that condition must be scheduler rated at 60% or more.
Multiple Condition Rating: If the veteran has two or more service-connected conditions, at least one of those conditions must be rated at 40% or more, and the combined VA disability rating must be 70% or more.
Unemployability: Regardless of the number of conditions, the veteran must demonstrate that they are unemployable due to their service-connected conditions.
To establish "unemployability" or the "inability to substantially maintain gainful employment," veterans must provide evidence of unemployment resulting from their service-connected conditions. This includes employment history records, such as hours worked, gross annual income, and dates of employment. Additionally, medical evidence, such as a doctor's opinion letter, is crucial in demonstrating that the service-connected condition renders the veteran totally disabled and unemployable.
Exceptions to TDIU Qualification:
Having a paying job does not automatically disqualify a claimant from receiving a TDIU award. There are exceptions that may allow employment while still qualifying for TDIU, including:
Marginal Employment: Working a job that pays substantially less than the prevailing poverty level. For example, a part-time job or low-paying job that does not provide a sustainable income.
Sheltered Employment: Holding a job that is protected from certain conditions or requirements that others in the same position would typically be expected to fulfill. This could include accommodations made by the employer specifically for the veteran's disability.
Employment with Friends or Relatives: Working for a friend or relative in a manner that would not be considered "substantially gainful employment." This typically involves working in a family business where the job is tailored to accommodate the veteran's limitations.
VA's Duty to Review TDIU Claims:
While it is ideal to submit a specific claim for TDIU, the VA has a duty to identify potential TDIU claims based on the evidence in the veteran's VA claims file, also known as a "C-file." Even if a veteran does not explicitly request TDIU, the VA is obligated to review the claims for TDIU as it is part of every claim for VA disability compensation. If the initial decision denies TDIU, the veteran can submit evidence of unemployability while a claim for scheduler benefits is still being processed.
Ongoing Monitoring and Obligations:
TDIU is not a permanent benefit, and the VA may require claimants to undergo periodic medical examinations to confirm their continued inability to work due to a service-connected condition. It is essential for veterans to attend these examinations and cooperate fully with the VA's requests. Claimants must also be cautious.
Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU) provides an avenue for veterans who cannot work substantially gainfully due to their service-connected conditions. By understanding the requirements and establishing unemployability through supporting evidence, veterans can pursue TDIU benefits. It is important to remain vigilant and comply with ongoing monitoring and reporting obligations to maintain TDIU status. If employability is established, the TDIU award may be revoked, leading to the potential repayment of benefits. Veterans should seek guidance from experienced professionals to navigate the TDIU process and maximize their entitled benefits.
The VA Disability Advocates Main Office is Located in Las Vegas, NV. We Represent Veterans throughout the United States. 702-209-5722